During my day at home being the world’s worst sick person, I not only managed to make a cake and a batch of meringues, clean the kitchen, vacuum the flat and write a blog post, I also whipped up some classic vanilla cupcakes for SPCA cupcake day.
While there are oodles of recipes out there involving complex flavours and toppings that provide more height than the cake itself, I feel like homage should be paid to the original classic. You can’t go wrong with a good vanilla cupcake. When the buttercream ratios are on point, the sweet, creamy and cloud-like experience is unbeatable.
The sponge recipe I use is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. The great thing about it is that the sponge uses almost no butter, so these are reasonably cheap to make. I remember in my second year of uni using the mini PCU containers of butter from the Carrington dining room to make these. With eight grams of butter per container, emptying the wee foil packets got a little tedious. While these cupcakes are low on the butter front, we shall ignore the fact that they contain an atrocious amount of sugar …
Oddly enough, this only makes nine cupcakes. They say 12 in the book, but I have never made more than 10. That’s fine though — nine is the perfect number to fit into my Tupperware.
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Makes 9
For the sponge
- 40g butter, softened
- 140g caster sugar
- 120g flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
For the buttercream
- 120g butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 320g icing sugar, sieved
- a couple of tablespoons milk
- food colouring of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees on bake and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
- Beat together your butter and sugar until the butter has been evenly broken up and dispersed throughout the sugar. Add in the flour and baking powder and continue to beat until a fine sandy consistency is achieved. Whisk together the vanilla, milk and egg. Gently pour this mixture slowly into the dry mixture and beat on high until a smooth, thick batter forms.
- Spoon the batter into the cases so that they are two-thirds full. Bake for 13–15 minutes until the tops of the cakes are golden and the sponge bounces back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
- To make the buttercream, cream the butter and vanilla until it pales in colour, then slowly add in half the sieved icing sugar and beat on slow while it gets roughly mixed in to stop a cloud of sugar forming. Add in the rest of the icing sugar, beat on low again and add in a splash of milk to help loosen the buttercream, but not too much or else it will be too sloppy — you can always add more later. Crank the beater up to a high speed and let the buttercream grow in volume and smooth out for about 3–4 minutes. At this point, the buttercream should be spreadable but still stiff enough to hold a peak. Add a little milk if not spreadable enough. Colour as desired.
- Spoon a couple of tablespoons of buttercream onto each cupcake and spread it evenly over the top. Finish off each cupcake with a sprinkle of sprinkles!